Paul Melly

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A street vendor pushes his cart past burned cars outside the headquarters of president Bazoum's Nigerien Party for Democracy and Socialism in Niamey on August 7, 2023. (Photo by -/AFP via Getty Images)

On the morning of 26 July, soldiers loyal to General Abdourahamane Tiani detained Niger’s president, Mohamed Bazoum. That night they declared a full military takeover by the National Council for the Safeguard of the Homeland (CNSP).

A three-week barrage of international condemnation and economic sanctions has failed to crack their determination to hold on to power.

The coup presents a challenge that extends far beyond Niger. The stakes are high for West Africa, a region that has seen six coups in three years, as an emergent ‘putschist-populist’ politics threatens hard-won democratic progress.

No compromise in sight

The CNSP have tried to force Bazoum into resigning in the hope of rebranding themselves as pragmatic managers of a political transition.…  Seguir leyendo »

Leaders of the G5 Sahel West African countries and their ally France confer over efforts to stem a jihadist offensive unfolding in the region. Photo by LUDOVIC MARIN/POOL/AFP via Getty Images.

Chad’s ‘Après-Déby’ moment has been the subject of intense speculation and discrete scenario-planning for years by the country’s external partners and stakeholders as no-one seriously entertained the possibility he would ever step down peacefully.

But such prior reflection did not cushion the shock in N’Djaména and foreign capitals when the military announced his death on the battlefield – as his army confronted a rebel incursion from across Chad’s Libyan border – immediately dissolved the National Assembly, and declared 18 months of rule by a Transitional Military Council headed by Déby’s own son Mahamat.

With Déby gone, the future of Chad is in doubt, as well as its role as a military actor across a huge region of Central and Sahelian Africa, as a key partner for Nigeria, Cameroon and Niger in the struggle to contain Boko Haram, and as a strategic ally for France.…  Seguir leyendo »

Côte D’Ivoire president Alassane Ouattara (right) and Guinean counterpart Alpha Condé at the opening of the 2017 International Conference on the Emergence of Africa. Photo by SIA KAMBOU/AFP via Getty Images.

It was not so long ago that West Africa appeared close to setting a region-wide limit of two consecutive presidential terms of office, as a major testament to its vibrant multi-party political culture, diverse media, and almost universal adherence to the fundamentals of genuine political choice.

As the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) became increasingly confident and professional in monitoring electoral registers and the other technical essentials of democracy, the underlying resilience of West African political pluralism came to the fore - but now an outbreak of presidential ‘third-termism’ is putting all that progress at risk.

Through a much-criticised referendum, Guinea’s constitutional rules were successfully changed by its president Alpha Condé so he could seek a third successive stint in power - and with a longer term of six years instead of five.…  Seguir leyendo »

President of Ivory Coast Alassane Ouattara arrives in Bamako on 23 July 2020, where West African leaders gathered in a push to end an escalating political crisis in Mali. Photo: Getty Images.

Gon Coulibaly, an economic technocrat and Ouattara loyalist since the 1990s, was earmarked in March as the candidate for the ruling Rassemblement des Houphouëtistes pour la Démocratie et la Paix (RHDP) party in the elections due in October, and represented a handpicked heir, trusted to sustain the strategy established during Ouattara’s nine years in power.

Many RDHP parliamentarians and local mayors are now pressing the 78-year-old Ouattara to run again. This was not what he had planned. He hoped to go out on a high – ‘par la grande porte’ – and set a statesmanlike example of retirement by choice, making way for the next generation.…  Seguir leyendo »

An informal market in the Anyama district of Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, is sanitized against the coronavirus. Photo by SIA KAMBOU/AFP via Getty Images.

The COVID-19 pandemic has struck the Sahel and West Africa at a time when the region is already under severe pressure from violent insecurity and the effects of climate change on its land, food and water resources.

By the end of April, there had been 9,513 confirmed coronavirus cases across the 17 countries of the region, and some 231 deaths, with the highest overall numbers recorded in Nigeria, Ghana, Guinea, Côte d’Ivoire, Senegal, Niger and Burkina Faso. Low testing rates mean than these numbers give only a partial picture.

The Food Crisis Prevention Network (RPCA) forecast in early April that almost 17 million people in the Sahel and West Africa (7.1 million in Nigeria alone) will need food and nutritional assistance during the coming lean season in June–August, more than double the number in an average year.…  Seguir leyendo »

Paul Biya. Photo: Getty Images.

President Paul Biya issued his annual message to mark Cameroon’s annual youth day on Wednesday. In a break from the usual platitudes, he made a heartfelt appeal for young people in the two English-speaking regions, Southwest and Northwest, where government forces and Anglophone separatists have engaged in increasingly brutal violence and reprisals since 2016, to lay down their weapons and return to community life.

He also made a vigorous defence of new decentralization laws that, he claimed, represent ‘a genuine peaceful revolution that respond to the desire of our fellow citizens to participate more fully in the management of local affairs’.…  Seguir leyendo »

Can Africa and the EU Forge a Partnership of Equals?

There is no doubt that Brussels policymakers and many European leaders recognize the need to move the EU’s relationship with Africa away from the ‘traditional’ donor–recipient dynamic, towards a genuinely fresh and respectful relationship. The two continents are close neighbours, with many shared interests and shared problems. Forging such a new partnership was the emphasis in the run up to the African Union-European Union summit, held in Côte d’Ivoire on 29–30 November.

The European Parliament invited a wide range of Africans to a pre-summit conference in Brussels. However, at a parallel pre-summit gathering in Abidjan, African concerns were manifest: that, even as it talks of partnership, the EU continues to set the agenda, often fails to consult its African partners and remains stuck in a post-colonial mentality.…  Seguir leyendo »

A soldier stands guard in Madama near Niger's border with Libya. Photo: Getty Images.

Last week, seven African and European leaders met in Paris to discuss means of reducing illegal migration from North Africa to Europe. They face significant challenges: during the first seven months of this year 115,109 migrants succeeded in crossing the Mediterranean Sea to Europe in search of a better life.

For Europe, the political task of managing the arrival of these newcomers is considerable. Nationalist populism – turbocharged by voter concern over migration remains a powerful force. Yet, the scaremongering over the size of refugee flows obscures a broader picture of migration in West Africa and the Sahel, driven by long-term development-centred challenges.…  Seguir leyendo »

The charred rear of the National Assembly after it was torched by protesters in Libreville. Photo by Getty Images.

Gabon’s model of political moderation and gradualist reform may have just imploded. Without external mediation, a full audit of polling station results and a hitherto absent readiness to compromise on the part of President Ali Bongo Ondimba and his main challenger, Jean Ping, the country risks being condemned to months or even years of unstable and sullen post-election stalemate.

Mild though the crisis appears by the standards of more authoritarian or conflict-torn neighbours, it is disastrously damaging for Bongo’s long-held ambition of transforming himself from dynastic heir into freely-elected architect of modernization and reform. After seven years trying to mark his country out from the fiefdoms of central Africa’s strongmen, he now risks cantoning himself into the category of presidents whose hold on office depends on power rather than consent.…  Seguir leyendo »

Jihadism in the Sahel is Not Fading Away

After Ouagadougou, wherever next? For the second time in two months, foreigners and locals have been slaughtered in a West African city hotel by a clutch of jihadi gunmen. On 20 November 2015, the target was the upscale Radisson Blu in Bamako, Mali. On Friday, it was the turn of the Splendid Hotel and the nearby Cappuccino cafe in the heart of Burkina Faso’s capital.

Both attacks have been claimed by Al-Mourabitoun, an Al-Qaeda-affiliated militant group founded by Mokhtar Belmokhtar, an Algerian commander, who first came to international notoriety after an assault and hostage seizure at the In Amenas gas processing plant in Algeria in January 2013.…  Seguir leyendo »